The Soviet Union and the United States had contrasting political ideologies – communism and capitalism – following World War II. Capitalism aims to replace private property with communal ownership, while communism rejects the private ownership that defines the economies of the United States and its allies. On February 22, 1946, Document A was transmitted by telegraph to American officials in Washington as a response to the post-WWII scenario. In this document, containment was introduced by the United States as a strategy to stop the expansion of Soviet communism.
One demonstration of containment was the Berlin Airlift and Berlin Blockade. The Berlin airlift, which occurred from June 27th, 1948 to May 12th, 1949 (Document B), involved Stalin and the Soviet Union halting shipments, including food, into West Berlin. As a result, West Berlin found itself completely surrounded by communism and possibly facing surrender if not for the intervention of the United States and its allies. It was not until a year later, on May 12th, 1949, that Stalin lifted the blockade (Document B). This event serves as a prime example of containment as it highlights Stalin’s failure with the blockade, which pushed West Berliners to abandon their possessions and embrace communism.
The United States’ response to the Korean War demonstrates containment. The war started on June 25th, 1950 and ended on July 27th, 1953 (Doc C). It was sparked by North Korea’s invasion of South Korea on June 25th, 1950 (Document C). North Korea received support from Harry Truman and the Soviets, while General Douglas MacArthur and the United Nations backed South Korea. This conflict resulted in the deaths of 50,000 Americans and 2 million others. China decided to assist North Korea because they lacked logistical support for further pressure on the south (Document C). Overall, the Korean War serves as proof of a successful containment strategy that restricted North Korea’s expansionist ambitions and hindered communism from spreading.
The Cuban Missile Crisis in January 1959 marked the last demonstration of containment. It occurred when Cuba adopted communism under Fidel Castro’s leadership. Following three years, in May 1962, the Soviets clandestinely transported 40,000 troops, 60 missiles, and 158 nuclear warheads to Cuba (Document D). As a response, the United States declared a blockade against ships carrying offensive weapons to Cuba. Consequently, in April 1963, a silent agreement between the US and the Soviets resulted in the removal of missiles from Turkey. This event illustrates the failure of Cubans to utilize Soviet missiles against the United States, exemplifying containment.